Thursday, September 16, 2021

Lao Tzu’s negative theology

Among the most interesting things about Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (fl. 6th century B.C.) is that he did not exist.  Or at least, that’s what some modern scholars tell us.  I’m skeptical about his non-existence myself, and so will refer to him in what follows as if he were a real person.  In any event, that existence and non-existence are both attributed to Lao Tzu is oddly appropriate given what his classic work Tao Te Ching says about the ultimate source of things: “All things in the world come from being.  And being comes from non-being” (II, 40, Wing-Tsit Chan translation).  What does this mean?

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Ioannidis on the politicization of science


Like other academics, I first became aware of John Ioannidis through his influential 2005 paper “Why Most Published Research Findings are False.”  That essay was widely praised as a salutary reminder from one scientist to his fellows of the need for their field to be self-critical.  With the COVID-19 pandemic, Ioannidis would become far more widely known, this time for expressing skepticism about some of the scientific claims being made about the virus and the measures taken to deal with it.  His warnings were in the same spirit as that of his earlier work, and presented in the same measured and reasonable manner – but this time they were not so warmly received.  In a new essay at The Tablet, Ioannidis reflects on the damage that has been done to the norms of scientific research as politics has corrupted it during the pandemic.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Make-believe matter

Materialism can at first blush seem to have a more commonsensical and empirical character than Cartesian dualism.  The latter asks you to believe in a res cogitans that is unobservable in principle.  The former – so it might appear – merely asks you to confine your belief to what you already know from everyday experience.  You pick up an apple and bite into it.  Its vibrant color, sweet taste and odor, feel of solidity, and the crunch it makes all make it seem as real as anything could be.  Anyone who says that all that exists are things like that might, whether or not you agree with him, at least seem to have the evidence of the senses in his corner. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Aquinas on humor and social life

In Summa Theologiae II-II.168.2-4, Aquinas discusses the essential role that play and humor have in human life.  They are necessary for the health of the individual, insofar as in their absence the mind becomes weary and tense.  And they are necessary for the health of social life, which would be similarly strained without the ability to laugh and play together.  The virtue of wittiness is the character trait that facilitates this human need.  Naturally, as in every other area of human life, we can sin by excess, as when we joke in an inappropriate manner or at an inappropriate time, or are in our general manner of life insufficiently serious about serious matters.  But we can also sin by deficiency, by being insufficiently pleasant and willing to engage in play with our fellows.  Aquinas writes:

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Confucius on our times

What is essential to a well-functioning society?  In a famous passage from The Great Learning traditionally attributed to Confucius (551-479 B.C.), the philosopher says:

The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states.  Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families.  Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons.  Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts.  Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts.  Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge.  Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Oppy and Feser after-party


After the first exchange Graham Oppy and I had on Cameron Bertuzzi’s show Capturing Christianity two years ago, Cameron hosted an after-show Q & A for his patrons.  He has now made it available to the general public on YouTube.  It runs for over half an hour and ranges over a wide variety of topics – the laws of logic, fundamental particles, divine simplicity and modal collapse, divine freedom, the “what caused God?” objection, dualism versus materialism, the Principle of Sufficient Reason, Thomism versus theistic personalism, potentiality versus actuality, and even capital punishment.  Check it out.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Sterba on the problem of evil

Recently my article “The Thomistic Dissolution of the Logical Problem of Evil” appeared in the journal Religions.  It was part of a special issue devoted to critical responses to James Sterba’s book Is a Good God Logically Possible?  Sterba has now replied to his critics.  What follows are some remarks about what he says about my own contribution.  (Keep in mind that what I have to say below presupposes my earlier essay and that I’m not going to repeat here everything I said there.)

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Adventures in the Old Atheism, Part V: Woody Allen


So far in this series we’ve considered Nietzsche, Sartre, Freud, and Marx.  None of them is exactly a laugh riot.  So let’s now take a look at the lighter side of atheistic disenchantment and nihilism, in the work of that most philosophical of American comic filmmakers, Woody Allen.  We’ve noted how one of the features that distinguishes the New Atheism from the Old is its shallow optimism.  New Atheists typically refuse to see any good in religion at all, and thus can foresee no loss whatsoever in the prospect of its disappearance.  Allen is as free of that sophomoric attitude as any Old Atheist, which gives him at least some of the relative sobriety of the members of that club.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Oppy on Thomistic cosmological arguments

My article “Oppy on Thomistic cosmological arguments” has just been published in the latest issue of the journal Religious Studies.  (It’s behind a paywall, sorry.)  It is a reply to all of the criticisms Graham Oppy has leveled over the years against arguments of that sort, not only in his Religious Studies article on my Aristotelian proof, but also in his books Arguing about Gods and Naturalism and Religion and elsewhere.  (Regular readers will recall the two YouTube exchanges I had with Oppy on the program Capturing Christianity, which you can view here and here.)

Friday, July 30, 2021

Anaximander and natural theology

The idea of natural theology is the idea of knowledge of God’s existence and nature that is attainable through purely philosophical arguments, entirely independently of any special divine revelation.  (This is usually contrasted with revealed theology, which is knowledge of God’s existence and nature attainable through some special divine revelation – for example, through a prophet sent by God whose veracity is backed by miracles.)  In Western philosophy, natural theology goes back to the very beginning, to the Greeks – and not just to Plato and Aristotle, but to the Pre-Socratics.  Arguably it begins with the second of them, Anaximander of Miletus (610 – 546 B.C.).

Friday, July 23, 2021

Pope Francis’s scarlet letter

Consider two groups of Catholics:  First, divorced Catholics who disobey the Church’s teaching by forming a “new union” in which they are sexually active, thereby committing adultery.  And second, traditionalist Catholics attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (i.e. the “Latin Mass”), some of whom (but by no means all) hold erroneous theological opinions about the Second Vatican Council and related matters.  In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis radically altered the Church’s liturgical practice in order to accommodate the former group.  And in Traditionis Custodes, he has now radically altered the Church’s liturgical practice in order to punish the latter group. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Pope Victor redux?

The Quartodeciman controversy of the second century A.D. had to do with the date on which the resurrection of Christ ought to be observed.  Churches in Asia Minor preserved the custom of tying this observance to the date of the Passover, whatever day of the week that happened to fall on.  The Roman practice was instead to observe it on a Sunday, since that was the day Christ was resurrected.  The eastern practice was defended by St. Polycarp, who appealed to the authority of none other than his teacher St. John the Apostle.  Pope St. Anicetus tried unsuccessfully to convince Polycarp to adopt the Roman practice, and they agreed to disagree.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Aquinas on bad prelates

What attitude should a Catholic take toward cruel and arbitrary prelates – for example, those who endlessly stir up division and then shamelessly blame the division on those who note and bemoan the fact?  In Quodlibet VIII, Aquinas makes some relevant remarks when addressing the question whether “evil prelates” should be honored.  You can find the passage in the Nevitt and Davies translation of Thomas Aquinas’s Quodlibetal Questions, from which I quote:

Monday, July 12, 2021

The metaphysical presuppositions of formal logic

By “logic” we might mean (a) the rules that determine the difference between good and bad reasoning, or (b) some formal system that codifies these rules in a specific way, such as the systems of propositional and predicate logic that contemporary students of analytic philosophy learn as a routine part of their education.  These are not the same thing, and it is fallacious to confuse them. 

Most philosophers have at least a vague awareness of this.  For instance, they know from standard textbooks that traditional and modern logic differ in their interpretation of categorical propositions, the repercussions this has for their understanding of the square of opposition, and so forth.  They know that there has been much debate in contemporary philosophy over the status of modal logic, not to mention even more exotic systems like quantum logic.  They may be at least dimly aware that systems of logic were developed in the history of Indian philosophy that differ from those familiar to Western thinkers.  And so on.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Schmid on existential inertia

At his blog, Joseph Schmid has replied to my recent post about his criticisms of the Aristotelian proof.  The reply is extremely long.  Now, I often write long blog posts myself.  Indeed, my previous post on Schmid was, at over 5,000 words, pretty long.  But by my count (via cutting and pasting into MS Word), Schmid’s reply clocks in at almost 40,000 words – all written up and posted within just two days after my post!  And even the cursory look I gave it shows that it raises a variety of issues that go well beyond anything I talk about in my post.  Into the bargain, it also summarizes and links to myriad other blog posts, articles, and YouTube videos of Schmid’s which, he indicates, we ought to check out if we want to have a better idea of his views about the matters under discussion! 

Friday, July 2, 2021

Schmid on the Aristotelian proof

A fellow named Joseph Schmid has written a number of articles and blog posts critical of various ideas and arguments of mine, such as the Aristotelian proof defended in chapter 1 of my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  Until this week, I hadn’t read any of this material, though for some time now I’ve been getting an increasing number of requests that I comment on it.  Many of these have been anonymous and weirdly insistent or adulatory toward Schmid, which made me suspect sock puppetry rather than genuine widespread interest.  My attention in recent months has, in any event, been focused on the book on the soul that I am working on and which is way behind schedule (as well as on other existing writing commitments, most of which have deadlines).  I also have an article forthcoming in Religious Studies responding to Graham Oppy’s objections to the Aristotelian proof, and after working on that I was inclined to give the topic a rest for a while.  Hence my neglect of Schmid.  But the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  So, in hopes of appeasing the Schmid enthusiasts, this week I read his recent article “Stage One of the Aristotelian Proof: A Critical Appraisal.”  Let’s take a look at it.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

A whole lotta links

At Substack, philosopher Michael Robillard explains how he left academia, and how academia left him.

Anna Krylov warns of the growing politicization of science, in the Journal of Physical Chemistry.  Nautilus on the sometimes contradictory scientific literature. 

At Rolling Stone, hear David Crosby sing Donald Fagen’s new song “Rodriguez for a Night.”

The Spectator on a new biography of Kurt Gödel. 

At the Claremont Review of Books, Joseph M. Bessette on Barack Obama’s latest memoir.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Curiosity damned the cat

Aquinas tells us that curiosity is a vice.  Before you clutch your pearls, dear village atheist reader, know that Aquinas was not condemning the pursuit of knowledge as such.  On the contrary, he refers to such pursuit as “studiousness,” and he regarded it is a virtue, not a vice.  “Curiosity,” as Aquinas uses the term, refers instead to intellectual pursuits that are disordered in some respect.  (Compare: The sin of wrath is not anger, but the indulgence of disordered anger; the sin of lust is not sexual desire, but the indulgence of disordered sexual desire; and so on.  In each case, it’s not the thing, but the abuse of the thing, that is condemned.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Indeterminacy and the comics

When I was seventeen, I wanted to be Al Williamson, the legendary science-fiction and adventure strip comic book artist.  Williamson is best known for his work on titles like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy for EC Comics in the 1950s, though in his later years he would be associated with the Star Wars newspaper strip and comic books.  (That was a tough one for me, since I love Williamson but can’t stand Star Wars.)  The uncolored original art for the classic opening panel from EC’s “Space-Borne!” (which you see to the left) gives a good sense of the Williamson style – elegant, lush, heroic.

For a larger sample of Williamson’s work , you might check out his adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” for EC’s Weird Science-Fantasy; the amusing “The Success Story” from Warren’s Creepy magazine; his adaptation of the movie Blade Runner for Marvel Comics; and “The Few and the Far” from Pacific Comics’ Alien Worlds.  A new book, Al Williamson: Strange World Adventures, offers a pleasing overview of the cartoonist’s career, with a great many pages of original art reproduced on large pages in black and white so that the details of Williamson’s pen and ink work are all visible.

Five Proofs in Spanish

My book Five Proofs of the Existence of God is now available in a Spanish translation.  It has for some time been available also in German.

For anyone interested in other translations of my books: The Last Superstition has been translated into Portuguese, French, and GermanPhilosophy of Mind is available in German.  A book of some of my essays is available in Romanian

Saturday, June 12, 2021

An exegetical principle from Fortescue

In his book The Early Papacy: To the Synod of Chalcedon in 451, Fr. Adrian Fortescue argues that the essential Catholic claims about the authority of the pope can all be found in patristic texts from the period referred to in the title.  You may or may not agree with him about that, but the papacy is not my topic here.  What I want to call attention to instead is a general exegetical principle Fortescue appeals to at the start.  He writes:

Before we quote our texts, there is yet a remark to be made.  Nearly all these quotations are quite well known already.  This does not affect their value.  If a text proves a thesis, it does not matter at all whether it is now quoted for the first or the hundredth time…  Naturally, people who deny [what we believe]… also have something to say about them.  In each case they make what attempt they can to show that the writer does not really admit what we claim, in spite of his words… The case is always the same.  We quote words, of which the plain meaning seems to be that their writer believed what we believe, in some point.  The opponent then tries to strip his words of this meaning… The answer is that, in all cases, we must suppose that a sane man, who uses definite expressions, means what he says, unless the contrary can be proved.  To polish off a statement with which you do not agree by saying that it is not meant, and leave the matter at that, is a silly proceeding.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Aquinas and Hayek on abstraction

Common sense and Aristotelian philosophy alike take it that we first know particular individual things (this triangle, that dog, etc.) and only afterward arrive at abstract ideas (triangularity, dogginess, etc.).  F. A. Hayek, who was a philosopher of mind as well as an economist and political philosopher, argued that this gets things the wrong way around.  The theme is most fully developed in his essay “The Primacy of the Abstract” (in his New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas).  Thomas Aquinas, naturally, upholds the Aristotelian position.  However, though his views differ from Hayek’s in several crucial ways, there is a sense in which he allows that abstractions do have a kind of priority.  A compare and contrast seems worthwhile.  Let’s start with Hayek and then come back to Aquinas.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Dave’s armstronging again

Longtime readers might recall Dave Armstrong, a Catholic apologist who, to put it gently, has a tendency to stretch the truth in bizarre ways.  His odd behavior has even inspired a definition:

armstrong, verb.  Boldly but casually to insinuate a falsehood in the hope that others will go along with it.  “Dave tried to armstrong me into a debate.  Can you believe that guy?”

Well, Dave “Stretch” Armstrong is at it again.  Apropos of nothing, he posted an article at his blog the other day suggesting that I have claimed that “Pope Francis favors divorce.”  That’s a pretty serious charge, but of course I have said no such thing.  Like other people, I have said that Amoris Laetitia is problematic insofar as its ambiguities seem to permit divorced Catholics living in adulterous relationships to take Holy Communion under certain circumstances, which would conflict with traditional Catholic teaching.  And like others (including Armstrong himself!), I have criticized the pope for not answering the dubia, and thereby making it clear that that is not what Amoris is meant to teach.  But that is a far cry from accusing the pope of actually favoring divorce.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

A reply to Dreher

Rod Dreher has responded to my recent post about him and Steve Skojec.  What follows is a reply.  Let me start by saying that I appreciate the good sportsmanship evident in his response.  Dreher has made his own personal spiritual crisis central to his writing about his understanding of Christianity and his reasons for leaving the Catholic Church.  There is simply no way one can disagree with him, however gently, without opening oneself up to the cheap and unjust accusation that one is being insensitive to the suffering he underwent.  Dreher does not play that game, which is to his credit.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Do not abandon your Mother

In Catholic theology, the Church is not to be identified with a mere aggregate of her members, not even those members who happen to hold ecclesiastical office at any particular moment.  She is an institution which existed before any of her current membership did and will continue to exist when they are gone.  But more than that, she is a corporate person, who can be said to think and to will, and to have rights and duties and other personal characteristics.  Even more specifically, she is a person of a feminine nature, the Bride of Christ and the Holy Mother of the faithful, nourishing them through sacrament and doctrine in a way analogous to a human mother’s nourishing of her children.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

The trouble with capitalism

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  (Matthew 19:24)

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  (Mark 8:36)

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)

When people use or hear the word “capitalism,” some of the things they might bring to mind are:

1. The institution of private property, including private ownership of the basic means of production

2. Market competition

3. The existence of corporations as legal persons

4. Inequalities in wealth and income

5. An economic order primarily oriented to the private sector, with government acting at the margins and only where necessary

Friday, May 14, 2021

Intellectuals in hell


It is by virtue of our rational or intellectual powers that we are made in God’s image and have a dignity nothing else in the material world possesses.  As Aquinas writes:

Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. vi, 12): “Man's excellence consists in the fact that God made him to His own image by giving him an intellectual soul, which raises him above the beasts of the field.” Therefore things without intellect are not made to God's image…  It is clear, therefore, that intellectual creatures alone, properly speaking, are made to God's image.  (Summa Theologiae I.93.2)

And again, a couple of articles later: “Man is said to be the image of God by reason of his intellectual nature” (Summa Theologiae I.93.4).

Monday, May 10, 2021

Grisez on balancing health against other considerations

Now that millions have been vaccinated, bogeyman Donald Trump has departed, and life is starting to get back to normal, some people are getting some critical distance on the health crisis of the last year – which was caused by the reaction to the virus no less than the virus itself.  Liberal magazine The Atlantic criticizes “the liberals who can’t quit lockdown.”  On Real Time, Bill Maher challenges his fellow left-wingers to own up to their exaggerations and misinformation on the subject of COVID-19.  On Daily Clout, feminist Naomi Wolf interviews Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, who says that the lockdowns were “biggest public health mistake we've ever made” and caused harms “worse than COVID.”

Monday, May 3, 2021

The idols of the mind

Thomas Harper is one of the great forgotten Neo-Scholastic writers of the nineteenth century.  I discussed his wonderful little book The Immaculate Conception in a blog post many years ago.  He is especially notable for his unusually rigorous and thorough treatment of abstract topics in metaphysics, in works such as the massive three-volume The Metaphysics of the School.  Harper will sometimes interrupt a sustained exercise in abstract reasoning with a non-technical aside, as he does in the course of discussing the metaphysics of truth in Volume I.  He there offers (at pp. 461-466) a commentary on Francis Bacon’s “idols of the mind” which is even more relevant now than it was in Harper’s day.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Social media’s fifth circle

Marshall McLuhan’s famous remark that “the medium is the message” was never more true than in the case of Twitter.  And the message is malign.  I would not go so far as to claim that the platform is a malum in se, but it is close.  The reason is not because of its political biases, though that hardly helps.  It’s because the medium of its nature tends positively to encourage activity contrary to what is good for us given our nature as rational social animals.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Corporate persons

A neglected insight of Scholastic political philosophy and traditional conservatism is that institutions can have a personal nature.  The Church, a government, a business firm, a university, a club, and similar social formations are like this.  They can be said to make decisions, to act and to be morally and legally responsible for the consequences of those actions, and to have rights and duties.  They can be praised or blamed, loved or hated, and loyally supported or betrayed.  They can be born, grow, flourish, decline, and die.  They can exhibit distinctive virtues, vices, and other character traits.  They can become corrupted or be reformed.  Since they have such personal attributes (or something analogous to them, anyway) the tradition refers to them as moral persons or corporate persons.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Voila! An open thread! (Updated)

UPDATE 4/20: Lately the comments sections have been filling up quickly.  Some readers seem unaware that after the count reaches 200 comments, you have to click the "Load more..." prompt that appears in small print at the bottom of the combox in order to view newer comments.  That's part of Blogger's algorithm and out of my control, sorry.  So, if you're worried that your comment is not showing up, never fear.  It's there, but you have to click the prompt to see it.

How does an annoying off-topic comment suitable only for deletion get transformed into a stimulating on-topic conversation starter?  Through the magic of the open thread post.  Whatever is on your mind, from The Prestige to Under Siege, from the Ponzo illusion to jazz-rock fusion, from Paul Bernays to Ricky Gervais, post away and stand back in wonder as your comment not only doesn’t disappear, but may even get a response!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Aquinas and the problem of evil

My article “The Thomistic Dissolution of the Logical Problem of Evil” has just been published in the journal Religions, and is available online.  (Follow the links to opt for either the HTML format or PDF.)  It is a contribution to a special issue devoted to responses to James Sterba’s recent book Is a Good God Logically Possible? 

Friday, April 9, 2021

What is mathematics about?

I commend to you James Franklin’s latest article “Mathematics as a Science of Nonabstract Reality: Aristotelian Realist Philosophies of Mathematics.”  It’s a helpful brief survey of different ways that an Aristotelian alternative to Platonist and nominalist approaches to mathematics might be developed.  (Franklin explores these issues in greater depth in his book An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics.) 

Friday, April 2, 2021

Frege on objectivity

It can be an interesting exercise every now and then to reread something that had a profound effect on you earlier in life.  In my case, Gottlob Frege’s grand 1918 essay “The Thought” is a piece that I find always repays renewed study.  I think I first read it almost 30 years ago, and it was one of several philosophical works on thought and language that began to break the hold on me of the metaphysical naturalism I had picked up as an undergraduate – though that was a slow process, taking a decade fully to unfold. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Tennant on Aquinas’s Second Way

Every now and then I point out examples of professional academic philosophers badly misinterpreting some traditional argument for God’s existence, or mind-body dualism, or a natural law conclusion in ethics, or some other idea that is out of step with the naturalistic zeitgeist.  This is, I think, a useful exercise, because it shows how the conventional wisdom on these matters does not rest on actual knowledge or understanding of the ideas criticized.  It is instead held in place by errors and unexamined prejudices that mainstream academics who do not specialize in these matters tend to repeat back to one another and pass on to each new generation of graduate students, who then enter the profession and also repeat them back to each other and to their own students.  This has, over time, created a general assumption that “everyone knows” that the arguments are no good and not worth investigating further, even though a little effort would show that what “everyone knows” is demonstrably false.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Meta-abstraction in the physical and social sciences

One of the themes of Aristotle’s Revenge is the centrality of mathematical abstraction to modern scientific method, and the ways that it both affords modern physics tremendous predictive power but also, if we are not careful, is prone to generate philosophical fallacies and metaphysical illusions.  This is especially so where we are dealing with abstractions from abstractions – meta-abstractions, if you will. 

In his recent book on the philosophy of time, Raymond Tallis notes how this has happened in modern thinking about the nature of space and time.  First, physical space has come to be conflated with geometry.  Whereas the notions of a point, a line, a plane and the like were originally merely simplifying abstractions from concrete physical reality, the modern tendency has been to treat them as if they were the constituents of concrete physical reality.  But then a second stage of abstraction occurs when geometrical concepts are in turn conflated with values in a coordinate system.  Points are defined in terms of numbers, relations between points in terms of numerical intervals, length, width and depth in terms of axes originated from a point, and so on.  Time gets folded into the system by representing it with a further axis.  Creative mathematical manipulations of this doubly abstract system of representation are then taken to reveal surprising truths about the nature of the concrete space and time we actually live in.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Lacordaire on the existence of God

Preaching on theological topics is a tricky business.  The more substantive and rigorous a sermon, the greater the danger of its being inaccessible to the average listener.  But the more accessible it is, the greater the danger of its being woolly and banal.  (In our egalitarian and mawkish age, the latter vice is by far the more common one.  Indeed, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon that exhibited the former vice.)   The 19th-century Dominican theologian Henri-Dominique Lacordaire was famously able to strike the right balance.  Like other writers of the period, he has a style that to the contemporary reader is bound to seem a bit purple and prolix.  But, I think, he stops short of excess even on that score – indeed, the tone is, if anything, refreshing.  Whereas rhetorical excess in contemporary preaching tends to pull our attention downward, to our own petty sentimentalities, Lacordaire’s flourishes raise it up to God.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Aquinas on video

Many readers will be familiar already with the Thomistic Institute’s outstanding Aquinas 101 series of videos, which provide brief introductions to a wide variety of topics from Aquinas’s thought.  The Institute has now announced a new video series, Aquinas 101: Science and Faith, which will explore topics such as evolution, neuroscience, miracles, quantum mechanics, psychology, scientific method, reductionism, and the like.  The series begins on March 16, and the videos will be released weekly.  And on March 10, the trailer for the series will premiere and the Institute will host a live Q & A.

The Thomistic Institute also makes available a wide variety of other excellent video materials.  And while we’re on the subject, I should also call attention to a similar but different project, the superb iAquinas series of videos, which are in English, French, and Spanish.  Hours and hours of worthwhile viewing!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Preventive war and quarantining the healthy


A “preventive war” is a war undertaken proactively against a merely potential enemy, who has neither initiated hostilities nor shown any sign of intending imminently to do so.  The Japanese attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor is a famous example.  This is not to be confused with a “preemptive war,” which involves a proactive attack on an enemy who has shown signs of intending to initiate hostilities.  The Arab-Israeli Six-Day War is a standard example.